Ahn Jung Geun’s Role in East Asian Peace
This is a copy of my essay that was awarded Bronze Medal on Korea Times English Writing Contest, in 2009, when I was an exchange student in South Korea. I also post it on my another blog. The original article can be found at Korean Times’ website.
Ahn Jung Geun is the first brick stacker in building the house of East Asia Community into one big family under peace and equality. He was eagerly willing to restore peace upon East Asia after being colonized by the Western, for rapid recovery and faster development.
Since these 3 great Asian countries shared similar culture, they should be united, not be fighting against each other. The unity among them will be ultimate benefit for all.
He had a very strong vision toward the unity of East Asian countries, narrated his idea of Pan Asianism on his paper “On Peace in East Asia” which unluckily he didn’t have enough “life-time” to finish it since his 2-week postpone proposal to Japanese Emperor prior his death penalty was rejected.
Upon a period of hard time in East Asia, Ahn proposed a regional cooperation for East Asian so that they could recover from a devastating colonization years under western emperor.
Ahn’s View of Pan Asianism
To Ahn, the East Asia should unite in order to counter the colonization from the Western States. Such union should be based on equality among those 3 countries, not based on conquest of a single nation.
Not only should respect the independence of each other, those 3 East Asian countries should work together to overcome their economic difficulties after a long period of war against the West.
His love toward the partnership among East Asian countries and his beloved nation is so incredibly sincere that he was willing to sacrifice his life for it. The real-life proof was when he decided to assassinate the first Prime Minister of Japan Empire, Ito Hirobumi, on a railway platform of Harbin, Manchuria in 1909. Despite his awareness of the penalty he would get after conducting the assassination, he convinced his mind to shoot Ito for the peace of East.
In spite of his devout believe in Catholicism and his understanding that murder is disallowed, he was certain that assassinating Ito was the best movement for the raise of peace in the East.
Ahn’s Reason to Assassin Prime Minister Ito
His assassination of Prime Minister Ito was an output of great suffering of the Koreans. Being a Pan Asianist, he believed Ito was tricking the world and Japanese Emperor into thinking that Koreans want to be a protectorate of Japan and Ito has made some illusion view of Korea was at peace and everything was doing well.
This false view of the world and Japan Emperor should be clarified and he needed to prove it. Assassinating Ito will put the world into awareness that there was really something happening in Korea Peninsula. There was not peace in Korea and that the Korea didn’t want to be a protectorate of Meiji Emperor.
Ahn charged Ito for being responsible in destroying the peace of East Asia Community. When Ito was the residential-general, Ito had significantly destroyed Korean sovereignty by forcing the ruling power of GoJeong Emperor to abdicate in 1907 after compelling to sign up treaties in 1905 and 1907.
Ito has ruined up Korean independence by his desire to rule out Korea. When the movement activists tried to fight back, Ito ordered to annihilate those independence-activists. Ahn believed Ito was responsible for the death of thousands of Koreans during the period.
During that time Ahn believed that East Asia should unite to combat against the colonizing western, not conquering each others. Ito’s ambition to colonize Korea was truly against Ahn’s view and therefore assassinating him will put East Asia further into a united community.
For Ahn, Ito’s assassination would give the unbiased view of tragedy in Korea, how terrible the life was. It, as well, would serve his passion toward Pan Asia where 3 neighboring countries will live together under equality.
Ahn’s Dream on Current Age
ASEAN Plus Three, in which Japan, South Korea, and China together with ASEAN countries having strong cooperation, is a current regional cooperation among Asian countries for boosting their development.
In the perspective of Ahn’s vision, this organization could be the representative of his unachieved goal. Now, those 3 countries (even broader as ASEAN is in) work hand in hand together to strengthen their relationship not (physically) to defeat the West anymore, but rather to promote mutual benefit among its member for faster development.
Ahn might not directly participate in establishing the ASEAN Plus Three, but his vision toward peace and cooperation in East Asian surely inspires the leaders in ASEAN and the 3 east Asia countries to establish cooperation.
He himself could not realize his vision of peace in Asia. His struggle singly might not be enough for establishing the East Asia Community. Ahn’s arguments might not be convincing enough for the East to work on together during that time.
However, for me and many Koreans as well as East Asian-ers, his idea has inspired us to collaboratively work together, cooperating in East Asia Community under equality. His spirit of peace in East Asia has motivated the leaders of East Asia to sit on the same table and formulate the best way of cooperation between those nations.
To put in one sentence, Ahn has been the first bricklayer to stack the first brick in building the most appropriate house of East Asia Community. He didn’t build the house by himself, but without him, the house might not even be started to build or build it in significantly wrong construction.
This essay was written for writing competition about Ahn Jung Geun, held by the Korea Times. I was picked up as the 3rd winner. What a good luck for me!